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ACNC appointment welcomed effusively by sector

21 November 2022 at 1:20 pm
Ruby Kraner-Tucci
The appointment of Sue Woodward as commissioner of the ACNC appears to be overwhelmingly popular, including with the assistant minister for charities. 

Ruby Kraner-Tucci | 21 November 2022 at 1:20 pm


ACNC appointment welcomed effusively by sector
21 November 2022 at 1:20 pm

The appointment of Sue Woodward as commissioner of the ACNC appears to be overwhelmingly popular, including with the assistant minister for charities. 

The for-purpose sector is heralding the appointment of Susan Woodward AM as the new commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) as proof the war on charities may be over.

Well wishes have flooded in congratulating the high-profile charity lawyer and advocate, with many regarding the change in leadership as a positive move for the sector. Woodward is the charity regulator’s third commissioner, replacing Dr Gary Johns, who stepped down in July after facing widespread criticism.

Speaking to Pro Bono News, assistant charities minister Andrew Leigh said the new commissioner was chosen through a merit selection process in response to Johns’ controversial appointment.

“For the past five years, the ACNC has been headed by somebody whose appointment was not warmly welcomed by the sector. The former ACNC head, Gary Johns, was seen by many in the sector as a divisive figure. I think that’s made it challenging for the ACNC to do its job effectively. 

“Sue comes into the job having won on merits through an open transparent selection process, and I think that will be enormously important to many charities.

“I have no idea exactly what trajectory [the ACNC] is going to go on, except that it’s going to do terrific things. There’s opportunities to work with states and territories to reduce the reporting burden on charities. There’s opportunities to provide more information to Australians about how the charity sector is performing. And there’s opportunities to make it smoother and more straightforward for people who want to start a charity or non-profit organisation.

“Just as ASIC serves as an effective regulator for businesses, I think the ACNC is moving towards being that one-stop-shop for charities and not for profits.”

Woodward comes to the role from national legal support non-profit Justice Connect, where she was chief adviser of not-for-profit law, advocating for a raft of regulatory sector reforms and establishing Australia’s only specialised legal service for not-for-profit organisations.

“The work that Sue’s done at Justice Connect is supporting many charities, so that’s given her a really broad view of the sector and its challenges and opportunities,” continued Leigh.

“It has meant that she has strong networks across the sector, and a deep understanding of the way in which the charity sector contributes to Australia’s social health and our economic prosperity.”

Writing exclusively for Pro Bono News, Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie described Woodward’s appointment as “wonderful”.

“Susan and her team will need the active collaboration of the charities sector if we are to ensure the ACNC emerges once again as the best charity regulator in the world,” he wrote.

He also paid tribute to interim commissioner Deborah Jenkins, writing that she was a breath of fresh air. “I think Deborah has achieved her goal and the charities sector owes her a debt of gratitude for the insightful way she went about this difficult task.”

Justice Connect’s chair Marcia Neave AO said that “Sue’s appointment is a testament to her profound impact on the community sector. As community organisations experience increasing resourcing and legal challenges, installing strong, passionate leadership is crucial for the resilience of the sector”.

Acting commissioner Deborah Jenkins, who has led the ACNC for the past four months, said the “appointment of a new commissioner brings certainty to the ACNC and the sector”, and looked forward to supporting a positive transition when Woodward commences in the role on 12 December.

Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS), which worked with Woodward to advance a range of sector-based initiatives, told Pro Bono News the appointment was a “hand in glove fit for the nation’s non-profit sector”. 

“There is much to be done as both the sector and the need for it grows and so this is a watershed appointment,” said ACPNS director Dr Wendy Scaife.

“The regulatory path ahead will have its challenges and expectations need to be realistic but appointing a figure who holds the respect of so many in the sector is an important catalyst.”



The elation continued on Twitter, with several prominent sector professionals welcoming the news. Volunteering Australia’s CEO Mark Pearce said Woodward’s “experience and deep commitment to charities will be a great asset to the ACNC”.



Sarah Davies AM, CEO of children’s safety non-profit The Alannah & Madeline Foundation congratulated Woodward on her appointment, commenting that her leadership will be beneficial for all that work in the social sector.



Lawyer James Farrell OAM, whose work has spanned homelessness, poverty and human rights, also shared his delight, stating Woodward is “a genuine champion for smart, well-run and impactful charities and NFPs, and will do an incredible job regulating, supporting and inspiring the sector”.



Elsewhere in the sector, Community Council for Australia’s chair Tim Costello AO expressed his elation over the appointment, congratulating Woodward, Leigh and the Albanese government. 

“Susan is a respected charity law expert, and has worked collaboratively across the charities sector for many years. I cannot think of a more appropriate appointment,” he said.

The strong support shown for the for-purpose sector through Woodward’s appointment was also recognised by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

“Ms Woodward brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this pivotal role and her appointment is due recognition of the invaluable leadership and vision she has shown during her career in the charities and not-for-profit sector,” read a statement from the organisation.

“The AICD is also encouraged by the strong support shown towards the charity and NFP sector by Dr Andrew Leigh since his appointment as minister responsible for the sector. Dr Leigh has highlighted the importance of an independent process to appoint the new ACNC Commissioner and we very much welcome the outcome of this process.”

Ruby Kraner-Tucci  |  @ProBonoNews

Ruby Kraner-Tucci is a journalist, with a special interest in culture, community and social affairs. Reach her at


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